Jonty Rhodes urges grassroots development to boost cricketJonty Rhodes, the former South African cricketer who is credited to have brought third element to the game—fielding—in world cricket, is currently in Nepal at the invitation of Nepal Cricket School.
Jonty Rhodes, the former South African cricketer who is credited to have brought third element to the game—fielding—in world cricket, is currently in Nepal at the invitation of Nepal Cricket School. Rhodes, along with former West Indies and Afghanistan fielding coach Ryan Maron, is conducting a High Performance Camp for young Nepali cricketers at the Tribhuvan University grounds in Kirtipur. On Friday, Rhodes talked to Adarsha Dhakal of the Post about his coaching methodologies and experience of mentoring Nepali kids. Excerpts:
You are a big name in international cricket and have lately travelled around the world as a coach. Will you explain reasons for coming to Nepal to impart your knowledge?
Firstly, I am not a big name. I have retired a long time back. Its YouTube (videos) that have kept me in these kids’ mind. I am under no illusion that they are young players who look up to internationals. From that perspective, I am looking to add as much values as I can. If I’ve been working in a fairly privileged environment like the IPL, where you look after 25 international players, I cannot forget my own roots. So the reason why I am associated with Ryan and Nepal is just a start. I am tired of making an impact only on 25 people.
It can be relevant in South Africa as well where there are some disadvantage areas where they are crying out for coaching assistance, facilities and equipments. It is relevant in countries like Nepal as well where there is such keenness and willingness to learn. Facility-wise we’ve got to make sure that when we leave from here our job is not done. We hope to empower the coaches to make practices exciting and are focused on what we’ve been talking about. We want players to take ownership of their preparation and the way they play cricket.
Is a 10-day camp enough for what you are trying to teach the kids in the High Performance Camp?
A 10-day camp is not a waste as long as you give the continuity afterwards. And that’s the key. We wanted the local coaches to work with us so they can see the training methodologies, drills and skills that we prepare because we’ve worked with international teams. This is what we want them to take forward. It is not a compulsion that this is how international players train and you have to follow it. Most segments of the Camp are the basics and mindset towards the practice. This is what we are trying to impart. Basically, we will be teaching the kids the same thing as they had been doing with the local coaches. But the only difference it that they listen to us. Players as well as the coaches have to take the ownership of what they learn.
So you mean more than the kids, the responsibility of giving continuity to this Camp will be on the coaches?
We never came here with a casual 10-day camp. We are hoping to come back to help out setting up cricket infrastructure in Nepal. We have come here with multiple goals. The first is to improve the skills and the second is to make sure that what have started out here gets continuity. You can possibly make a change in somebody’s technique in 10 days but unless that’s maintained, its going to be waste.
You’ve come from a place with abundance of cricket facilities. What is your take on the facilities that Nepali kids have?
Not every school has facilities (in South Africa) but all of them have facilities of some sort. The beauty of cricket these days is it is getting played all around the world, not just only in the cricket field. We’ve worked in Canada and cricket is played in the US in plastic mats, where grass grows but it actually becomes a very useful surface. There are ways that you can adapt despite being short on facilities. It doesn’t have to be incredible facility. It can even be a football field.
The concern for us is you have a great U-19 and senior squad but out of them if two are injured and three chose for other career options what are you left with? Without a pool of players from schools, you are going to have a limited supply of talented cricket players. School needs to be big focus and utilising the facilities here is something that you can maximize.
What is your impression after looking at the number of kids in the last few days?
There is a whole mix. Few of them are captains who have represented Nepal at age-group events. There are a bulk of kids who have talents and want to get to the next level through some guidance. And there are few beginners. We have not come here to conduct the Camp for capped players. Our focus is not just the top class players but it’s the guys who are excited and want to make themselves better regardless of their current ability.
If you’re given the opportunity, can you see a long-term plan with Nepali cricket?
That is the key for us but our focus is not just with the national team, its the infrastructure. Without infrastructure, no matter how many camps we come to, its not going to have a long-term benefit for Nepali cricket. That is going to a big part of our focus. You want as much game time as possible not just for your international or national players but also for the school kids. They learn so much in a game environment. Our long-term plan is to get involved with the infrastructure of cricket in Nepal. We want to make a big difference by training coaches, promoting game at school levels and utilising existing facilities which are not used for cricket.